Tulsi Gabbard vs. Liberal McCarthyism

If there’s anything you might have thought “we’d” learned from the Trump presidency, it’s that well poisoning, guilt-by-association, and reputation-destruction-by-innuendo were all thoroughly bad ideas. Evidently, this isn’t what the leaders of the Democratic Party or the Democratic Party establishment have learned. What they’ve learned is that well poisoning, guilt-by-association, and reputation-destruction by innuendo are useful instruments for the conduct of internecine warfare against ideological positions they don’t like or don’t understand. Continue reading

American Soul

From an article in the Sunday New York Times magazine about James Comey’s private crusade to “end” the Trump presidency:

Rod J. Rosenstein, the former deputy attorney general whose 2017 memo about Mr. Comey was cited to rationalize the firing of the F.B.I. director that May, has been particularly cutting. At a speech last spring, Mr. Rosenstein taunted the former director for “selling books and earning speaking fees while speculating about the strength of my character and the fate of my immortal soul.”

“I kid you not,” Mr. Rosenstein said. “And that is disappointing. Speculating about souls is not a job for police and prosecutors.”

I guess I’m disappointed that Rod Rosenstein seems never to have heard of mens rea, forensic psychology, or Cicero.  The FBI famously has a Behavioral Analysis Unit. What is it that Rod Rosenstein thinks they do there?

Atlas Shrugs–Gradually and In Reverse

From a news release by the New Jersey Department of Transportation:

(Trenton) – New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) officials announced today the start of a railroad crossing rehabilitation project that will require a seven-day closure and detour of John Galt Way to start tomorrow in Florence, Burlington County.

Beginning at 7 a.m., Friday, October 4, until 7 p.m., Friday, October 18, John Galt Way will be closed and detoured in both directions at the railroad crossing between Richards Run and Route 130/Bordentown Road to remove the existing crossing and replace it with a new concrete crossing, as well as new asphalt approaches.

I don’t know, I feel like there’s something off about this.

Useful back story.

Brutality: Who Needs It

From “Shoot Migrants’ Legs, Build Alligator Moats: Behind Trump’s Ideas for Border,New York Times, October 2:

Privately, the president had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate. He wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh. After publicly suggesting that soldiers shoot migrants if they threw rocks, the president backed off when his staff told him that was illegal. But later in a meeting, aides recalled, he suggested that they shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. That’s not allowed either, they told him.

To adopt a Randian rhetorical trope: he got it from Israel, who got it from East Germany.

Character-Based Voting and Kleptocracy

I’m not normally a fan of either Ross Douthat or Sarah Chayes, but both of them have articles on the Ukraine-Biden-Trump crisis that strike me as simultaneously out-of-the-mainstream and completely on-target. Douthat’s “The Corruption Before Trump” is in today’s New York Times; Chayes’s “Hunter Biden’s Perfectly Legal, Socially Acceptable Corruption” is in The Atlantic from a few days ago.

Both make the same point, a point that coheres with the point I tried to make about the Ukraine scandal in my last post on it: even if you think that Trump’s behavior on the Ukraine phone call is reprehensible and impeachment-worthy, it’s just the most egregious instance of a widespread set of practices. There’s no point in attacking Trump in particular but leaving the practices themselves unscrutinized. Frankly, there’s no point in attacking the practices and leaving the ideological motivation for them unscrutinized, either. Chayes is better than Douthat on the corrupt nature of the practices; Douthat is better than Chayes on the issue of the ideological motivations for the practices. But read both together, and you get the right overall picture.  Continue reading

Mutually Assured Regulatory Destruction

This story in The New York Times strikes me as involving a journalistic blind spot of a characteristically left-liberal sort. It’s presented as a landlord-tenant dispute with an immigration enforcement twist, but there’s more to it than that. The “more to it” is right there in the story, but treated as an afterthought, not quite a case of “burying the lede,” but definitely a failure to explain what happened. Continue reading

“Keep Your Mouth Shut, and Sit Down!”

I’m curious what readers think about this case. (It’s back in the news because the judge recently recused himself from the case.) It describes a judicial hearing in a New Jersey courtroom involving proceedings against an accused sex offender. Apparently, the alleged victim (a minor) and his mother traveled to New Jersey from out of state to attend the hearing, disrupting it out of frustration at the fact that the case wouldn’t be settled that day, as they’d expected. The delay arose because the defendant refused a plea deal and demanded a trial; the trial date was set months in the future, rendering the mother-and-son’s present trip pointless.

The mother explained, “We’ve been dealing with this for four and a half years, your honor. Four and a half years. And it’s been constant delays and pushbacks.”

There’s audio in the first link above. In it, the judge tells the mother, rather brusquely, to keep her mouth shut and sit down. He’s kind of an asshole about it, but I guess his point was that she was being one. This may be a regional thing. Continue reading

Chicken Kiev: Misframing the Trump-Ukraine Controversy

It’s remarkable how the Trump-Ukraine story has reflexively been described as a case of Trump’s “courting Ukrainian interference in American politics” rather than as Trump’s interfering in Ukrainian politics, or even more precisely, as Trump’s abortive attempt to make an intervention into the Ukrainian criminal justice system. The latter strikes me as a more straightforward description of what actually happened.

DES MOINES — Allegations that President Trump courted foreign interference from Ukraine to hurt his leading Democratic rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr., dominated presidential politics on Saturday, as Mr. Biden demanded a House investigation of Mr. Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s leader and as Mr. Trump lashed out, denying wrongdoing without releasing a transcript of the call.

I heard one pundit try to justify the “courting interference” description by claiming that in asking the Ukrainians to investigate Hunter Biden, Trump was legitimizing Ukraine’s sending covert operatives to the United States to circumvent the American criminal justice system–presumably to abduct Biden for trial (or worse) in the way that the Israeli Mossad abducted Adolph Eichmann in 1960. I guess that’s one interpretation–a highly speculative one that involves a gigantic leap beyond any evidence we have, but an interpretation nonetheless. Continue reading

A Moral Stop Sign for Andrew Pollack

There comes a point at which one has to draw a line, even with the victim of a tragic and heinous crime, and say (my words, not the judge’s):

Your daughter is dead. That’s horrible and unfair, but the time has come for you to stop trying to ruin other peoples’ lives over it. Leave them alone, and find a way to come to terms with your tragedy without harming innocent bystanders in the process. Tragedy and premature death didn’t begin with you, won’t end with you, and don’t justify your desire to wreak vengeance on people who don’t deserve it. At a certain point, even the most sympathetic victim starts to lose the world’s sympathy. You’re there.

Perhaps not a message calculated to win any popularity contests. But no less necessary for that.

Brown-Faced Man

As someone who unapologetically wears brownface every day, I find the hysterical front-page revelation of Justin Trudeau’s 2001 experiment with brownface pretty underwhelming. I also find the reaction to it on the part of various brown-faced Canadian politicians to be a transparent instance (so to speak) of grandstanding. If ever there was a case where policy ought to trump a supposed matter of character in politics, this is it–not so much because policy always trumps character in political matters, but because the supposed matter of character involved here is so morally inconsequential that just about anything trumps it. Continue reading